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Traditionally, newly elected MPs are considered less likely to rebel against their party whip; something that Ros Taylor from LSE describes as a combination of the 'coattails effect', inexperience, and careerism.

However, in the vote on December 14th to approve the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Entry to Venues and Events) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI, 2021, No. 1416) - which implement Covid passes for nightclubs and large venues - 97 members of the Conservative party voted against the party's three-line whip, including newly-elected MP Louie French.

French, explaining his decision on Twitter, said:

I fully support the booster rollout and I will get mine ASAP thanks to the efforts of the government, NHS, pharmacies, army and volunteers. But, I made a clear pre-election pledge that I would not support Covid passes for our domestic economy and voted accordingly.

He rebelled against the whip just twelve days after being elected in the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election on December 2nd, and eight days after being sworn into Parliament on the 6th.

Is this a new record, or has an MP rebelled against a three-line whip from their party in a Parliamentary vote within a shorter timeframe?

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  • Do you accept international answers?
    – Gary 2
    Dec 15, 2021 at 17:11
  • 5
    @Gary2 I’m only really interested in answers from the UK - I don’t know if other countries’ parliamentary whipping systems would make for a fair comparison.
    – CDJB
    Dec 15, 2021 at 17:20
  • I think that the idea of "elected official voting in an opposite way of their party chair" is super vague and not particularly informative. Parties frequently do not attract 100% compliance from their members, so the answer to this question as phrased would basically just refer to whenever a vote occurred the soonest after an election. Dec 15, 2021 at 17:44
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    @EveryoneElse I disagree, I think it’s particularly unusual for a new MP to break the whip so soon after being elected. I’ve just seen a tweet from the political editor of the FT asking the same question as well: twitter.com/GeorgeWParker/status/1470848936705409033
    – CDJB
    Dec 15, 2021 at 17:53
  • If the question was vague before, its current wording using Three-Line-Whip is not vague at all.
    – Jan
    Dec 16, 2021 at 14:11

2 Answers 2

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In the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill held eight days after the 2019 election, on the 20th of December 2019, newly elected Labour MP Charlotte Nichols broke a three-line whip and abstained on the bill. Using the swearing-in arithmetic in CDJB's answer, this was just 1 day, 22 hours and 28 minutes after being sworn in on the 18th of December.

On Twitter, she gave this explanation of her actions -

I never thought my first vote as a Labour MP would be breaking a three-line whip, but I owe it to my constituents and to members of my Constituency Labour Party to explain my actions, and I hope you can understand it was a decision I agonised over.

The country voted to leave the European Union, and Warrington North voted to leave ahead of the national picture. I respect the result of the Referendum, and the strength of feeling locally was very clear at every door I knocked (even among many of those who had voted Remain in 2016) that the last few years of indecision have been bad for our country and we needed to get on with leaving, and bringing the country back together. Many felt like Labour were frustrating the process of leaving not because we wanted the best possible deal for our country but because we didn't want to leave at all. It was this lack of trust that nationally, I believe, cost us the election.

The Withdrawal Agreement put before us today, however, had many fundamental differences with the Withdrawal Agreement tabled just before the General Election. While I believe this Government does have a clear mandate to deliver Brexit, I do not believe they have any mandate or any justification for these changes- including to employment protections and transitional trading arrangements.

I did not feel I could follow the whip and vote against the Bill, having listened to my constituents wishes. I do not wish to frustrate the process, so I did not stand in its way. I could not, however, in good faith vote for the Withdrawal Agreement as amended since the election. So I have abstained in the hope the Government, in the spirit of co-operation and bringing the country together, will listen to members from across the House who have raised concerns about these new amendments and will work collegiately in the committee stages before the Bill comes back for its next reading. I hope it was the right decision.

Fellow new Labour MP, Abena Oppong-Asare, also abstained on the bill, but this was apparently due to her mistakenly missing the vote. Zarah Sultana, another new Labour MP, also abstained - but I can't find any explanation for her absence, so it's possible this was a paired vote or an authorized absence. In any case, Nichols was sworn in after both of them, so keeps the record.

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At the 2017 general election held on June 8th, the Labour party's candidate Emma Dent-Coad replaced the Conservative Victoria Borwick as the MP for Kensington. 21 days later, on June 29th, she rebelled against the Labour party, voting in favour of Chukka Umunna's pro-European-single-market amendment to the Queen's Speech. A three-line whip had been issued against the amendment, and Labour front-benchers who voted in favour of it were later sacked by then-leader Jeremy Corbyn.

However, although this was 21 days after being elected, Dent-Coad was sworn in at 1:55pm on June 21st. The division in which she rebelled was held at 5:15pm on the 29th; 8 days, 3 hours and 20 minutes later.

In Louie French's case, he was sworn in at 2:34pm on December 6th, and rebelled in the division at 6:47pm on the 14th; 8 days, 4 hours and 13 minutes later - so in terms of time elapsed since being sworn in, Emma Dent-Coad was 53 minutes quicker to rebel than French.

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